Perhaps you thought you knew about Bristol; but how much do you really know about this vibrant, culturally diversity city?
A buzzing, largely cosmopolitan city, the eight largest in the UK and the largest in the south west of England, Bristol is estimated to have a population of 433,100 and forecasted to reach 585,800 people by 2033.
Bristol has a multi-ethnic personality with a large population of Black and minority communities. Statistics show that the life expectancy for people living in the South West is 75, higher than the rate for other regions in England and Wales.
Bristol is associated with several historical places, events and happenings in the UK, such as being home to Harvey’s Bristol Cream Sherry, formed in the city in 1769. The world’s first bar of chocolate was also produced in Bristol in 1847 by J S Fry.
Although both factories have seized to exits, Bristol has continued to hold a significant place in the heart of British history and reputation. It has been severally rated as one of the most popular places to live in country and one of the three most popular cities.
In 2014, the Sunday Times named Bristol best UK city to live in, after it profiled the 64 cities in the country. From the poll, Bristol emerged the top city to live in Britain for a lot of its appealing and conducive features including the city’s varied and beautiful housing stock, good schools and fantastic connections, a buzzing culture and nightlife, low employment, access to an idyllic countryside and great minds who have contributed in making the city a big attraction.
Aside being recognised as Britain’s most livable city, Bristol has won several other awards that make it a great place to see and spend time. Some of its other city awards are the Best Connected (London), Brainiest (Cambridge), Most Optimistic (Belfast), Best Views (Edinburgh), and Best for Sport (Glasgow).
A bit of Bristol’s history
Bristol was founded in the Saxon times at the place the Rivers Avon & Frome intersect. Soon a bridge was set up there and the new, growing town was named Brigstow. The name was later corrupted due to local accent to Bristol.
In time, Bristol grew and became an important port city for intercontinental sailing voyages and shipping explorations. In 1497, set out on an expedition in his ship, the Matthew, for an exploration of new and uncharted territories, reaching America. King of England, Henry VI instructed Richard Ameryck (most people believe ‘America’ was derived from his name) who was the Sheriff of Bristol, to source the money for Cabot’s journey.
On Cabot’s return, he presented a whalebone to St Mary Redcliffe as an expression of gratitude to the city for a successful journey. The gift can still be found in the church to this day. Besides that, the church also holds a brass monument to Joanna Brook, who was Ameryck’s daughter and heir.
Today, Bristol has evolved into UK’s most favourite destination for foreign tourists, hosting over 9 million visitors every year. It is now the nucleus for culture, education and employment in the region. Since its founding, the city’s prosperity has had a strong link with the sea.
But in recent years, its economy has diversified and expanded a lot more into the aerospace industries, the creative media and electronics; while the city centre docks have been recreated as an expression of culture and heritage.
Although Bristol made significant contributions in manufacturing, especially in the field of aviation and with particular regard to Concorde and British Aerospace, the city is mostly famous globally as an iconic cultural city. Theatre companies such as the Bristol Old Vic and the lively nightlife sounds have grown Bristol’s reputation as the cultural hub of Britain and its champion of music with its development of the ’Bristol sound. ’
Bristol’s sporting identity is dominated Bristol Rovers and Bristol City Football Clubs, as well as a number of non-league clubs. It also hosts the County Cricket Club (which was acquired as far back as in 1889 by W. G. Grace and has ever since been home to Gloucestershire Cricket Club), as well as the Bristol Rugby Union club.
One of the most anticipated festivals in the year in Bristol city is the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta, held every August in the grounds of Ashton Court. This major hot air ballooning event attracts huge crowds — even for the dawn lifts which starts at 6:30 am. You also simply cannot miss the popular International Kite Festival.
Bristol’s academic features are highlighted by its two major institutions of higher education, University of Bristol and the University of the West of England.
The city is ideally linked and served by local transport, notably Parkway and Temple Meads, two main train stations. Bristol is also home to a top class airport close to Lulsgate, which has drawn significant investments in the past few years.
This is perhaps tied to the city being named the first cycling city in England. Home to the sustainable charity, Sustrans, Bristol has many urban cycle routes and links to the national Cycle network. All of these attractive factors has seen a significant rise in the city cycling by as much as 21% in recent years.
With all of these great and appealing features and with even more fantastic potentials, it is easy to see why Bristol is seen as one of the nicest places to live in the UK and the residents are equally reported to be in the 10% of the happiest people in the country.
Why Bristol’s Special
But what makes Bristol special is a lot more than bridges and hot air balloon festivals (Of course, these are fantastic, too). The city itself has a personality that has a magnetic pull. Here’s how:
- You’ll find street art everywhere
An good example if Nelson Street. If you passed through it a couple of years back, you would have walked down dull and drab grey concrete thoroughfare. Now it’s been transformed by art into a huge outdoor gallery. When you visit the South of the river, you’ll find art lining the street too at Upfest with huge pieces adorning the walls of many building on North Street.
- The city’s a festival for most of the year
If you love the vivacious, fun and entertaining air of carnivals, you’ll Bristol. Here, great festivals are never in short supply with three lined up in the summer months and happening simultaneously every weekend. From music festivals to theatres, food festivals to harbour and balloon fiestas, Bristol is a parade town to celebrate unique diverse cultures of its cosmopolitan population.
- The Bristol landmark bridge
The Clifton Suspension Bridge is one of the icons of Bristol and is an attraction site for both tourists and residents. The over 150 year old bridge was designed by a young Isambard Kingdom Brunel who sadly couldn’t witness the completion of the bridge.
- Bristol is home to the world famous Ribena
This is perhaps the best proud fact about Bristol. Maybe more significant than being the home of Nipper the HMV dog or that it was the shipping expedition of John Cabot from the city that discovered America, and not Christopher Columbus.
- It’s UK’s first cycling city
The city may be surrounded by hills, but it attracts large crowds of cyclists and enthusiasts and has been fittingly names UK’s first Cycling City. Bristol hosts the first bits of the National Cycle Network, and there’s a large group of fixed gear cyclists, whose exploits inspired a short documentary titled Boikzmoind
- From Nipper to Grommit
You most likely are familiar with the world famous HMV logo associated with the talents of the young dig named Nipper. The iconic and universally recognised logo, founded in 1895, created and employed the canine genius Nipper, who was born and bred in Bristol. Over a century later, Nipper is reborn as Grommit, another discerning canine and local lad.
- Baking bread and drinking coffee
Britollians like to take life a little easier, slower but certainly in fun, enjoyable way. So while the city has a good share of vibrant nightlife and city scenes, some of its old fashioned cultural past still feature strongly such as print journals Off Life magazine and Lionheart newspaper.
And what better way to relax with an old styled reading item than with a sumptuous bakery and a cup of coffee? And in Bristol, there are lots of great bars, inns and bakeries to visit for that kind of treat. From Hart’s Bakery underneath an arch inTemple Meads to St Mark’s Road in Easton where you’ll see the East Bristol Bakery; from coffee bars like Didn’t You Do Well to Small Street Espresso, or Full Court Press or a spot that serves both such as Bakers & Co; the delight never really ends.
- A splash of fun with water slide down Park Street
Bristol has grown a name for great outdoor fun for residents and tourists. Now, here’s the cherry on the cake: a giant water slide measuring 95m (300ft) gushing down one of the UK’s steepest shopping streets. It was created by artist Luke Jerram.